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July 21, 2020 at 12:05 pm · · Comments Off on Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) Announces Appointments to its Board of Directors

Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) Announces Appointments to its Board of Directors

PORTLAND, ME (July 21, 2020) – Rebecca West Greenfield, Partner at Pierce Atwood, and resident of Yarmouth, and Anthony Calcagni of Falmouth, Partner at Verrill, have been elected to the board of directors of the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), a statewide organization of commercial real estate owners, developers and related service providers.

Rebecca West Greenfield maintains a transactional commercial real estate practice involving acquisitions, dispositions, development, leasing, finance, and title and land use analysis. She has particular expertise in project finance for new and existing real estate developments.

Rebecca has represented regional real estate developers, educational institutions, lenders and other commercial entities in a wide array of development and lending transactions involving hotels and resort properties, office buildings, campus expansions, residential subdivisions, and other commercial properties. Her experience extends to certain specialized areas as well, including advising clients in the space of commercial mortgage backed securitized loans and the defeasance of such securitized loans, timberland transactions, and preparation of registration reports pursuant to the requirements of the Federal Interstate Land Sales Disclosure Act.

Anthony Calcagni joined Verrill Dana in 1994. Tony’s real estate practice has focused on acquisitions, development and leasing of commercial property, easements and title matters, zoning and land use, and community associations. Tony has represented the developers of several of the largest wind power projects in the State of Maine. He has served as Chair of Verrill’s Real Estate Department since 2010.

Since 2007, Tony has been recognized in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, and listed in The Best Lawyers in America under Real Estate Law. He was accepted as a Fellow of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers in 2015. Tony served as Chair of the Maine State Bar Association’s Real Estate and Title Section from 2016-2018, and served on the Town of Falmouth Planning Board from 2002-2009 (serving as Chair from 2007-2009).

MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations, Shelly R. Clark says, “Pierce Atwood and Verrill have all been longtime supporters of MEREDA, and Rebecca and Tony will be great additions to the Board of Directors. We look forward to their active participation on our various committees and we are excited to begin working more closely with each of them.”

For further information, please contact MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations, Shelly R. Clark at info@mereda.org or visit www.mereda.org.

July 14, 2020 at 8:37 am · · Comments Off on The Outstanding Seven: MEREDA’s 2019 Notable Project Recipients

The Outstanding Seven: MEREDA’s 2019 Notable Project Recipients

PORTLAND, ME – July 13, 2020 –  Every spring, MEREDA recognizes the most noteworthy and significant Maine commercial development projects from the previous year, all of which embody the Association’s mission to support responsible development.

In keeping with tradition, MEREDA’s Board intended to honor the award recipients at the 35th Anniversary Gala. Originally scheduled for the end of March 2020, the Gala was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. Though they may have their formal award delayed, these projects have only gained practical significance as they serve their communities–especially under additional strain and stress of these unprecedented times.

In 2019, these seven projects distinguished themselves in design, construction, land-use, and added benefit to their communities.

Hannaford Center, Good Shepherd Food Bank (Hampden) which renovated the former Bangor Daily News printing press building, allowing the Food Bank to purchase and distribute more food, more frequently and efficiently to northern, central, and Downeast Maine.

Cape Arundel Cottage Preserve, Arundel-Kennebunkport Cottage Preserve LLC (Arundel) for creating an overwhelming sense of place and cohesive design on a 300-acre project, using sustainable practices and natural landscapes.

62 Spring Street, Auburn Housing & Anew Development (Auburn), for its diversity and vibrancy, epitomizing the “Smart Growth” concept which successfully connects the dots between affordable housing, city walkability, economic energy, and downtown growth.

Founders Place Campus, Bangor Savings Bank and CJ Developers (Bangor), for the creative and extensive implementation of environmental systems and capacity to spur talented business growth to Bangor.

Southgate Avesta Housing (Scarborough), for the preservation and creative renovation of a 215 year-old farmhouse as a vibrant community of 38 safe, quality, and affordable homes through the incredible support of partners and donors.

Station Square, Great Falls Construction (Gorham), for the thoughtful and intentional preservation of Gorham’s historic identity as a railroad village, with equal emphasis on the community invitation to work, live, and play while employing Mainers.

WEX Global Corporate Headquarters, Jonathan S. Cohen & 0 Hancock Street LLC (Portland), for a statement of responsible development, innovation, and modernity, using lean construction principles kept work flowing and the project on track, and continuously emphasizing sustainability and energy efficiency.

MEREDA thanks its Membership for their continued commitment to responsible development in Maine, and looks forward to formally and tangibly recognizing these Notable Projects when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, each project will be recognized with its own article in the Maine Real Estate Insider e-newsletter published by Mainebiz, running Summer of 2020.

For more information on these impressive projects, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 2, 2020 at 11:04 am · · Comments Off on Maine Real Estate & Development Association Names New President and Announces 2020-2022 Officers

Maine Real Estate & Development Association Names New President and Announces 2020-2022 Officers

Portland resident, Josh Fifield, a Senior Account Executive in the Business Insurance Department of Clark Insurance is the new president of the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), a statewide organization of commercial real estate owners, developers and related service providers. Founded in 1985, MEREDA promotes responsible development and ownership of real estate in Maine through legislative advocacy, educational programs and professional networking opportunities.

As a Senior Account Executive at Clark Insurance, a 100% Employee Owned insurance agency headquartered in Portland, Maine, Josh has over 16-years of experience as an advocate and trusted insurance advisor.   He developed an exceptional skill set starting his insurance career as an Underwriter for Maine Employers Mutual Insurance Company.

As an employee owner, he is responsible for the continued and successful growth of Clark Insurance by providing its customers with comprehensive business insurance solutions and related safety and risk management services. His focus is on the unique needs of New England’s real estate and development focused businesses, providing agency-wide services such as 24-hour claims assistance, competitive plans, exceptional customer service, and safety & risk consulting services.

An active member of his community, Josh has coached a variety of youth sports and has been the Safety Director for the Portland Little League.

In MEREDA, Josh started volunteering as a committee member on the Marketing & Membership Committee in early 2014. In 2017, Josh was recognized as one of two Volunteers of the Year. He has remained actively engaged as the co-chair of MEREDA’s Marketing & Membership committee and more recently as MEREDA’s Vice President of the Board of Directors.

Josh succeeds Gary D. Vogel, attorney at Drummond Woodsum who has led MEREDA for the past two years. “Gary’s steady leadership during these unprecedented times has shown how well MEREDA was able to quickly pivot in order to continue our statewide advocacy efforts and create informative and responsive virtual events including the MEREDA INDEX and COVID-19’s immediate impact to Maine’s development industry”, said Fifield. “I welcome the opportunity to help guide MEREDA through these challenging times, all the while continuing to maintain its unparalleled pursuit of advocating on behalf of its members.

“MEREDA also announced its 2020 / 2022 slate of officers which include President Josh Fifield of Clark Insurance, Vice Presidents Shannon Richards of Hay Runner and Craig Young of The Boulos Company, Treasurer Mark Stasium of Camden National Bank, and Secretary Shelly R. Clark, who also serves full time as MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations.

L-R: Josh Fifield, Shannon Richards, Craig Young, Mark Stasium, Shelly Clark

June 30, 2020 at 10:07 am · · Comments Off on Maine Issues COVID-19 Guidance for Town Meetings

Maine Issues COVID-19 Guidance for Town Meetings

Throughout the pandemic, MEREDA members have navigated participating in various town public proceedings conducted virtually. Now, with the opening of municipal buildings and the need to accommodate municipal matters requiring a public vote by town residents, Governor Mills and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) have released guidelines for holding town and public meetings during COVID-19, consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order 56 (Order 56).

For developers with projects that require ordinance amendments or contract zone approvals at town meeting, these provisions will affect how the town conducts the debate and vote on those matters.

The DECD guidance offers three options to allow towns to hold public meetings safely and effectively. The key requirements of each option are:

  1. Indoor or outdoor town meetings of 50 or fewer individuals. Under this option, town officials must limit the number of individuals that gather in a shared space. The town must have a backup plan to ensure that voters are not turned away in the event that the total number of participants exceeds 50, including voters, clerks, and town officials. Microphones should not be passed from person to person, and ballots should be collected by a ballot clerk with a collection receptacle rather than passed from hand to hand.
  1. Drive-in town meetings. If the number of attendees is anticipated to exceed 50 individuals, the DECD recommends organizing a drive-in meeting where individuals can remain inside their vehicles in an outdoor space where vehicles can be spaced a minimum of six feet apart. The outdoor space should have a clear entrance where voters check in upon arrival for voting, and voting should occur by distributing colored cards of sufficient size to allow “show of hands” voting through vehicle windows. Towns should ensure that there are appropriate social distancing procedures in place if an individual needs to exit their vehicle to use shared public facilities, such as restrooms, or to offer public comment.
  1. Indoor town meetings using multiple rooms within one facility. If the number of attendees exceeds 50 individuals, towns may choose to hold a meeting in different rooms within one facility, such as a school. Organizers should utilize technology to maintain the continuous ability for all voters in attendance to hear all discussions and motions, and to allow real-time voting in each meeting room. A deputy moderator should be present in each meeting room to facilitate voting. Gathering in common areas prior to or after the meeting should be discouraged.

The DECD also highlights a number of common practices that municipalities should follow across all three options described above, including:

  • All individuals should maintain six feet of distance at all times.
  • All individuals should wear face coverings at all times, but at a minimum during any interaction with an individual outside of their household group, such as during check-in. While the use of face coverings is strongly encouraged, officials may not turn away participants for failing to comply with the face-covering recommendation.
  • Individuals checking in voters and collecting and distributing ballots should wear a face shield in addition to a face covering.
  • Towns must provide a separate location for non-voters or members of the public to view and listen to the proceedings.
  • Towns should consider putting restrictions in place so that individuals who are at a higher risk of illness-e.g., those over age 65 or those with underlying medical conditions-are not responsible for checking in voters and/or collecting ballots. Towns should also train election workers on hand hygiene, social distancing guidelines, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and cleaning protocols.
  • If a town hosts a meeting indoors, then it must provide a separate space for isolating an individual who becomes ill during the meeting. Towns should also take steps to improve indoor air ventilation and prop open doors where possible to decrease the spread of germs.
  • In general, meeting organizers should take steps to notify the public of all policies and procedures through signage and other means of communication, modify traffic flows and eliminate lines, and provide adequate supplies for personal hygiene, including hand sanitizer and disinfecting soap.

If a municipality cannot comply with the gathering protocols outlined in the DECD guidance, the governor’s executive order also authorizes municipal officials to hold a vote on a matter at the ballot box instead of at an in-person town meeting.

June 10, 2020 at 11:15 am · · Comments Off on The 2020 MEREDA Index: A Look at the 2019 Data and a Review of Current Conditions

The 2020 MEREDA Index: A Look at the 2019 Data and a Review of Current Conditions

On Thursday, June 4th, MEREDA unveiled its 2020 MEREDA Index, at a free-to-attend virtual event to discuss the 2019 data, and apply that knowledge to today’s constantly-shifting landscape and unpredictable future.  The event had nearly 150 registrants. In case you missed it, you can watch, or watch it again, here

This most recent release provides a review of 2019’s full calendar year. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic striking right before the 2019 Index unveiling, even recent history lost importance as global focus shifted instantly to the uncertain future. Insightfully, MEREDA leadership pivoted just as quickly, adding a preview of 2020 based on first quarter data.
This year marks the first year that we have revised the timing of the Index so that an entire calendar year is presented when the Index is unveiled.   The current MEREDA Index contains a measurement and presentation of the real estate market in Maine, and its various components for all of 2019.   Rather than presenting the Index through the third quarter of the preceding year at our annual January Forecast Conference, and then producing a second edition with a full calendar year of data, the Index is now presented once a year in the spring, with an entire year of data.

Because of the great changes that have occurred in a very short period of time beginning in March 2020, and because of the relevance of the 2020 data showing the initial impact of the virus, we asked Dr. Charles Colgan, the economist who prepares the Index, to include some first quarter 2020 data in a supplement to the Index that is included in the index presentation.

We have many people to thank!  Firstly, thank you to those involved in providing commentary found in our Print Edition and accompanying Video, which can be accessed on our website.  Providing insights into the residential sector was Mark Small of Landmark Realty, Jessica Estes of The Boulos Company spoke about the commercial sector, and Patrick Ducas of Ducas Construction spoke on construction.

Thank you also to those folks participating in our June 4th webinar.  In an effort to broaden the discussion even further, we asked additional MEREDA members to provide supplementary perspectives on the residential, commercial, and construction sectors. The webinar included Tim Soley of East Brown Cow discussing the commercial sector, Dava Davin of Portside Real Estate Group covered the residential sector, and the construction sector was covered by Kevin French of Landry/French Construction.

Many thanks also, to MEREDA president Gary Vogel, for taking the lead on the June 4th webinar as moderator, and to Dr. Charles Colgan, for always providing an incisive analysis for our members.

May 12, 2020 at 9:44 am · · Comments Off on Construction Businesses: Navigating State and Federal COVID-19 Workplace Safety Requirements

Construction Businesses: Navigating State and Federal COVID-19 Workplace Safety Requirements

On April 28, Governor Mills released Restarting Maine’s Economy, which lays out a plan for re-opening non-essential businesses. Businesses that were previously deemed essential, including construction businesses, may continue operations – the Governor’s new plan does not impact them.

However, as the pandemic evolves, the State is shifting its attention to COVID-19 prevention and workplace safety. In light of this, this is a good time for construction businesses to review their workplace safety protocols to ensure compliance with the latest state and federal guidance on COVID-19 prevention.

Below are the compliance checklists and guidance documents that construction businesses need to follow as they continue operations and begin the summer construction season.

Maine

  • Department of Labor: Guidance for Construction Employers in Maine for Addressing COVID-19. This Department of Labor (DOL) guidance document provides recommendations and suggestions for construction businesses to implement COVID-19 prevention measures, including those in the DECD checklist. This DOL guidance includes, and overlaps with, much of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommendations for COVID-19, discussed below.

Federal

  • OSHA General Guidance: Preparing the Workplace for COVID-19. This comprehensive general guidance document covers OSHA recommendations for COVID-19 prevention for all business types.
  • This document classifies all job types for risk of COVID-19 infection. Most construction workers will fall under the low-risk category. OSHA has provided a useful one-page reference guide to understand worker classifications.  Construction businesses are expected to review the classifications and implement risk-appropriate controls and prevention measures.
  • OSHA Construction Business Guidance: COVID-19 Guidance for the Construction Workforce. This one-page guidance document provides an overview of the prevention controls and measures that all construction businesses need to implement based on the general guidance above.

To ensure full compliance, construction businesses are advised to refer to all four sets of guidance.  While there are overlaps among them, each one of them contains information that pertains to reducing workers’ risks of contracting COVID-19 on the worksite.

May 5, 2020 at 7:02 am · · Comments Off on Legislative Update from Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA)

Legislative Update from Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA)

While much has changed in the world in the past months, the MEREDA Public Policy Committee has continued to stay engaged on critical matters impacting our members. From ensuring a last-minute enactment of an extension to the Maine Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (MHRTC), to advocacy before the Governor’s office on state action related to COVID-19, the past few weeks have been active.

Before COVID-19 upended our lives, the Second Regular Session of the 129th Legislature was set to adjourn on April 15, 2020. However, as confirmed US cases began to rise in early March, the Legislature moved to adjourn on March 17, 2020. The early adjournment forced the Legislature to carry-over hundreds of bills to a future special session. Fortunately, working diligently with the Governor’s Office and Maine Revenue Services, MEREDA and the MHRTC Coalition were able to ensure passage of a two-year extension of the MHRTC. The extension also ensures that projects can continue construction and claim the credit past the sunset date, so long as they’ve been certified. The MHRTC extension was enacted in LD 2047, which became Public Law 2019, Chapter 659 on March 18, 2020. It will take effect on June 16, 2020.

Though there has been no legislation action since adjournment, the Governor’s Office and her administration have issued a number of orders related to COVID-19 that have significantly impacted Maine businesses, including MEREDA. To represent its members’ interests in some of these crucial policy decisions, MEREDA engaged directly with the Governor’s administration on ensuring the role of commercial real estate as an essential business, the need for flexibility in notarization requirements, and limitations on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More specifically on rent and evictions, on April 14, 2020, MEREDA sent a letter to Governor Mills regarding her decision to impose limitations on eviction actions on both residential and commercial landlords. MEREDA encouraged the Governor not to take overbroad action, and emphasized that most commercial real estate landlords in Maine are small businesses who must also maintain a positive cash flow to meet financial obligations. Ultimately, the Governor placed a moratorium on evictions arising solely from failure to pay rent while continuing to allow evictions in cases of tenant misuse or misbehavior. MEREDA recently hosted a webinar on real estate issues during COVID-19, including discussion of the Governor’s order on eviction limitations. We will continue to stay engaged on this issue as it evolves and affects commercial real estate landlords, and will continue to responsibly advocate for our members as other issues arise in this rapidly changing environment.

While much has occurred in the past weeks, there is even more to be done as Maine considers reopening the economy. On April 28, 2020, Governor Mills released a four-phase plan to slowly restart the economy, with the first phase starting on May 1 and enabling some businesses to reopen. The Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) will be posting checklist for businesses to follow in determining steps to secure their workplace for COVID-19 safety – check the DECD website for more news soon. The Governor’s complete plan for reopening the economy can be found here. In short, decisions about re-opening the economy in the phased plan will be based on the following four principles:

  • Protecting Public Health;
  • Maintaining Health Care Readiness;
  • Building Reliable and Accessible Testing; and
  • Prioritizing Public-Public Collaboration.

Even as businesses start to reopen under the phased plan, the state government must turn to facing the realities of the economic downfall on the state budget – which are likely to be dramatic and far-reaching. To help lawmakers understand just how much the budget is likely to be affected, Governor Mills has called upon the State’s economic forecasting officials to meet in July and August (instead of November and December), to examine the economic ramifications of the pandemic on Maine’s revenues. The Governor is likely to call legislators for a special session to address the anticipated budget shortfalls, but she may wait until after the July economic forecast to enable decision-making based on the new information about the state’s fiscal health.

MEREDA will continue to remain diligent in protecting its members’ interests as the state looks to reopen and the legislature looks for ways to address the anticipated revenue shortfall caused by this current pause in our state’s economic activity. Our members represent a critical pillar of the state economy, and we will continue to advocate for policies that are fair, practical, and predictable even as we navigate a new, post COVID-19 environment.

April 21, 2020 at 6:45 am · · Comments Off on Pandemic Leaves Landlords in a Difficult Position

Pandemic Leaves Landlords in a Difficult Position

by: Gary D. Vogel, Attorney, Drummond Woodsum, MEREDA President

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone.  Many businesses are shut down, or are minimally operating.  The CARES Act recently adopted by Congress with over two trillion dollars of emergency funding will provide a lifeline for many businesses.   Especially important is the SBA Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans that provide forgivable loans for an amount of up to 8 weeks payroll for qualifying businesses.   The program has proven so popular that as of April 16th, applications for the entire $349 Billion of PPP funding have been made and the SBA announced that it would not accept any more applications, unless Congress approves additional funding.    While the PPP loan program is enabling many business to survive, and to pay their staff, for many companies the PPP isn’t a good fit, because their business is too big, may not have enough payroll, compared to other essential expenses or may need more than 8 weeks of payroll covered in order for them to survive.

Left out of the discussion at Congress is the impact the shutdown is having on landlords.   MEREDA members include many residential and commercial landlords, and MEREDA has both heard from and reached out to members to be able to understand what is happening to landlords in this pandemic.    Property owners are businesses that are frankly essential to our economy, providing the real estate for businesses to operate.  Most property owners will not qualify for PPP loans, since they tend to not have employees, or if they do, the payroll cost is a very small percentage of their operating expense, when compared to taxes, mortgage payments, utility charges, insurance and the like.   The impact of the PPP loans and the ability of businesses receiving those loans to keep employees paid, as well as the impact of enhanced unemployment benefits for unemployed workers has enabled most residential tenants to pay their rent, and residential landlords in Maine in an informal survey report receiving 80 to 90% of April rent.   Commercial landlords report lesser amounts of April rent payments.   In addition, on April 16, Governor Mills issued an executive order prohibiting or limiting evictions for a period extending until 30 days after the expiration of the Covid-19 State of Emergency.     While few if any landlords will want to be evicting tenants who cannot pay rent due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus, many landlords are concerned that the prohibition on evictions may be viewed by tenants as a basis for not paying rent.    While the Governor’s executive order makes it clear that the order does not relieve tenants of their obligation to pay rent while the tenant continues to occupy the real estate, it does not address what constitutes “occupation of the real estate” in this circumstance and leaves several questions unanswered.

What should landlords be doing when faced with nonpayment of rent by tenants?  

  1. First and foremost, landlords should talk to their tenants to find out what tenants can do and what relief tenants need so that the landlord can understand what rent payments they can expect during this period.  Every situation is somewhat different, and there is typically no “one size fits all” solution.   Tenants need to understand that the rent obligation doesn’t go away just because they are unable to operate, unless the lease so provides, and that is highly unusual.   Tenants also need to understand that the rent obligation doesn’t go away during the period of time that evictions are limited.     Landlords have fixed expenses that don’t stop just because a business is temporarily closed.   If a tenant says that they are giving up and going out of business that is very different from a tenant who is just trying to weather the storm and to reopen when they are able.   If a tenant is going to close up for good, the Landlord should get the tenant to surrender the space back to the landlord, so that the landlord does not need to evict the tenant to be able to have the space available to rent to others.  This is especially important while the courts are closed to evictions.
  1. Landlords should find out what federal resources the tenants have been able to obtain, and whether the tenants plan on using some of those funds to pay rent.   Under the PPP, businesses can use 25% of the funds to pay rent, utilities, debt service payments and some other expenses while still having 100% of the loan remain forgivable.   For tenants that have not applied for PPP loans, the tenants should be alerted to do so if and when more funding is available.
  1. Once the Landlord understands the shortfalls in rent payments that the tenant anticipates, the landlord should talk to its lenders and explain the situation that the landlord is in.   Some landlords may have enough tenants who are paying rent to enable them to pay their mortgages; others may not.   Lenders understand what is happening and will work with borrowers.    Lenders will Lenders need current information in order to help.  That is part of the reason why getting good information from tenants is important.
  1. If necessary, Landlords can also apply for Loans using the SBA or FAME loan programs.    These loans are not forgivable, and landlords will not want to take on additional debt to provide support to their tenants, but for some there may be no other options.
  1. If Landlords know that Tenants will be unable to pay rent for the duration of a shutdown, the landlord may want to enter into a lease amendment with the tenant to provide when the unpaid rent will be due, which may have the unpaid rent payable over a period of months together with the rent due for those months.  For example, the deferred rent could be repayable 1/12 each month for a period of 12 Months once the shutdown ends, or 30 days after the shutdown ends, with the current rent for that month.  It is better to have an enforceable agreement that everyone can live with, rather than just leaving unpaid rent with a tenant in default.  This is better for the landlord, and it is also better for the tenant, so that the tenant can have an arrangement that is workable from a cash flow perspective.

In summary, landlords are placed in a difficult situation as a result of the impact of the coronavirus.   While more PPP funding may be available to tenants who may be able to use those funds to pay rent, the ability and willingness of tenants to use these funds for rent payments may vary widely, and landlords may not see a great deal of relief, directly or indirectly, from the CARES Act or from future federal relief.    Landlords need to work proactively with tenants and lenders to make sure that they can weather the storm.  If the coronavirus causes the real estate market to suffer greatly, that will only make recovery more difficult for everyone, including property owners.

Join MEREDA for a Virtual Event focusing on this topic on Friday, April 24, 2020 beginning at 9:00 AM.  The event is FREE of Charge, but registration is required.  For more information visit our Events Page at www.mereda.org. 

April 16, 2020 at 11:35 am · · Comments Off on Governor Mills issues Executive Order lifting in–person requirements for certain notarial acts and acknowledgements

Governor Mills issues Executive Order lifting in–person requirements for certain notarial acts and acknowledgements

On Wednesday, April 8, 2020, Governor Mills issued Executive Order 37 (EO 37), An Order Temporarily Modifying Certain In-Person Notarizations and Acknowledgement Requirements. This order relaxes certain legal requirements that may make it easier for MEREDA members to execute and close deals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, EO 37 suspends the requirement that a person whose oath is being taken and the notary and any witnesses be physically present at the same location with some exceptions. This change is intended to enable notaries and witnesses to perform services over video conference by establishing a number of requirements which must be satisfied to result in a valid notarization. EO 37 also authorizes the Secretary of State to issue additional guidance, but it remains to be seen whether that will happen.

The following is an overview of some key requirements and exceptions in the Order. There are additional specific requirements in the Order and we strongly recommend members review all requirements carefully or speak with an attorney to ensure compliance.

Requirement Highlights

Some of the requirements include that:

  • The signatory, the notary and any witnesses must be physically present in Maine when performing the notarial act;
  • The notarization must allow for direct contemporaneous interaction between the parties via two-way audio-video communication technology;
  • The signatory must initial each page of the document and send an electronic image of each page as well as the hard copy of the document to the witness or to the notary, if no witness was required;
  • The witnesses and notary have to meet certain timeframes to complete the notarization, which will be deemed to have occurred on the date of the contemporaneous interaction; and
  • A recording of the contemporaneous interaction must be preserved for 5 years.

EO 37 will ensure that documents notarized “in the presence and hearing” of a signatory, in compliance with this order will be deemed to have been notarized in the presence and hearing of the signatory.

The order also provides that notarization will not be deemed invalid or impaired if one of these conditions is not met, so long as the notarization was performed in substantial compliance with the order.

EXCEPTIONS

EO 37 does not apply to the following notarial acts:

  • Solemnizing marriages;
  • Administering oaths to circulators of state or local direct initiative or referendum petitions and nomination petitions of candidates for electoral office; or
  • Absentee ballots in state and local elections.

EO 37 does not change any other requirements under Maine law pertaining to the taking of sworn statements and acknowledgements.  Unless it is sooner amended or rescinded, this order will expire 30 days after the COVID-19 state of emergency terminates – in a proclamation issued April 14, Governor Mills extended the state of emergency to May 15, 2020.

April 14, 2020 at 6:11 am · · Comments Off on Maine Home Prices – Where do we go from here?

Maine Home Prices – Where do we go from here?

by: Dava Davin, Principal, Portside Real Estate Group

When I presented at the 2020 MEREDA Real Estate Forecast Conference in January, I was full of good news and positivity in the residential market. I shared that 2019 represented the eighth straight year of rising home prices in Maine resulting in a record-breaking year with the median price for a single-family home topping out at $225,000. In 2019 prices rose 5.4% in Southern Maine. The highest home prices in Maine’s history!

I predicted that prices would continue to rise in 2020 at a rate of 3%-5%. I also forecasted that this spring we would see buyers battling for homes and houses selling for over the list price as a result of multiple offers. The low inventory would make home buying for first time home buyers and folks looking in the median home price range (around $300,000 and below in Southern Maine) very competitive. I spoke about the election having little effect on Maine’s real estate market. I thought we might see more price reductions this year as sellers attempt to test the market, and that overall, 2020 was poised to be another great year for sellers as well as buyers with low mortgage rates giving buyers more buying power!

And then…the world was flipped upside down in what felt like an instant as Covid-19 crept into every aspect of our lives. The Southern Maine real estate market has been, and will continue to be, adversely affected for the near future. My forecast has changed but this time I don’t have data and trends to back up the shift caused by something of this nature and magnitude.

Here is my take…

As of today, April 8th, for the most part we are seeing a real estate “pause’’. We will experience a temporary slowdown as people practice social distancing protocol and wait to see if their job situation changes over the next few weeks. This will most likely create pent up demand for when the crisis ends. People may wait now, but the need won’t go away. People will take action when things return to normal. What will help Maine’s real estate market is the trend of stock market volatility leading people to invest in real estate as they diversify their portfolios. We will also see new reasons for Mainers to list their homes and search for new ones as feelings toward their home may change (weeks of sheltering in place) and desires for home offices, home gyms, and more or less space. We are also expecting to see in-migration to Maine from more densely populated areas.

Sadly, we will also see temporary and permanent job loss or job shifts causing Mainers to list their homes. Maine has seen a tremendous amount of job losses very quickly and it could get worse, but once the crisis is over many jobs will be restored. Nationally, economists are projecting the unemployment rate to be 15% in the third quarter of 2020, flattening to single digits by the fourth quarter of this year, and then just over 6% percent by the fourth quarter of 2021. A quicker turnaround than we have seen with other financial crises.  This should benefit the housing market rebound.  We have had more buyers than sellers in Maine for several years, so this shift may create a balance in the market that has been overdue.

For cities like New York, new real estate transactions have come to a screeching halt.  In southern Maine, real estate professionals are placing all of their virtual strategies into extra high gear, in order to prevent that from happening. Real estate is deemed an essential business in Maine with most aspects able to be done virtually – negotiating, signing of contracts, video tours, etc. The showings, closings and inspections are being done with strict guidelines for safety. We have seen a significant slowdown but new properties are still hitting the market and some are still selling quickly and in multiple offers.

We are entering what is typically the busiest season for real estate, that usually lasts through the end of the summer. I am confident that the busy season will extend through the fall, and possibly through the winter.

Momentum is building: once the stay at home mandate is lifted and our world begins to shift back into normalcy, the demand will be strong. We are bracing for a tough Q2, with an improving Q3, and ending the year with a strong Q4.